Farm festivals
Will Carleton




WITHIN a grove, where maples strove
To keep their sweet-tongued goods,
Met, worn with years, some pioneers—
The Old Guard of the woods;
Who came once more to linger o'er
The grim work of their primes,
Renewing here the grief and cheer
Of happy, hard old times.
Rough clad were they—unkempt and gray—
With lack of studied ease—
Yet beauty-strown with charms their own,
Like brave old forest trees.
Their eyes seemed still to flash the will
Of spirits sent to win;
Their hands were marred; their cheeks were scarred
By deep wounds from within.
With awkward grace and earnest face
Of effort-bought repose,
With troubled ease and shaking knees,
Their president arose.
Page  14
The crowd in view from him first drew
That flustered word "Ahem!"
He who when found on equal ground,
Could talk so free with them.
('Tis strange how one who well has known
His friends, from day to day,
Those same ones fears, when he appears
On higher ground than they!)
But he arose, and his snub nose
Twanged with a sound immense;
Which bugle-blast about him cast,
Gave him self-confidence.
And while a look of reverence took
His anxious-wrinkled face,
He begged the good old elder would
Invoke the throne of grace.
A sweet old man, of clean-cut plan
And undissembling air,
Rose in his place, with fervent face,
And made a business prayer.
He never threw his voice into
A sad uncalled-for wail;
He ne'er aspired to make Heaven tired,
With gossip weak and stale;
He did not ask a toilless task,
Or claim undue reward,
He did not shout opinions out,
Or "dance before The Lord";
He did not prate of town or state,
Suggesting them by name;
With his calm voice, no precepts choice,
Or general orders, came.—
Thanks—many a one—for favors done,
Hopes—modest-clothed—for more,
Praise, love, and fear, and all sincere,
And then his words were o'er.
So old was he, it seemed to me,
In this strong, feeble prayer,
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Page  [16]Page  17
He knocked once more at Heaven's front door,
And left his message there.
With side-turned head, the chairman said,
"To help this meetin' 'long,
My eldest son, George Washington,
Will perpetrate a song."
Uncouth of view, George W.
Rose in his ample tracks,
And gave, in voice not over choice,
The loud
They called me off of the hard couch of my rest—
"Wake up! wake up! for the morning breaks!" they said.
To the bath of the white-hot fire they bared my breast—
The lash of the iron sledge fell on my head.
Far and near
My pain-cries bounded;
Shrill and clear
The anvils sounded;
"Work!" they cried:
"The day has broke!
The forests wide
Await the stroke
Of the serpent-spring of the woodman's cordy arm,
As it flings the white-toothed axe against the tree;
The noon shall gleam on many a prosperous farm,
And the growing grain the forest's child shall be."
I went to the streetless city of the wood—
I carried there destruction's surest pang;
The tree that many a hundred years had stood,
Now fell at the touch of my silver-gleaming fang.
Far and wide
My voice was calling;
Every side
The trees were falling;
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"Cease," I said,
"Your barbarous cheer,
And bow the head,
For death is near!"
And the oak-tree gazed at its steadily gaping wound,
And nursed the stinging pain that it could not tell;
Then grandly drooped, with an agony-moaning sound,
And dashed and crashed through the brush, and, thundering, fell.
Wherever are heard my voice's ominous sounds,
The half-clad feet of the homeless millions run;
They pitch their tents of wood on my battle grounds—
They eat the fruits of the work that I have done.
Toil that dares
Is tenfold glorious;
All earth shares
Its march victorious;
"Haste!" it cries:
"Your venturous deeds
Will win a prize
For human needs!"
So I strike the key-note of the national song
Of empires that shall star through future years;
And the artist-tribes do but my strains prolong,
And I am the pioneer of pioneers.


Came speeches, then, by withered men,
In language brusque and plain;
And, as it happ'd, most of them tapped
The reminiscence vein.
Age loves through ways of olden days
With Memory's lamp to grope;
As proud Youth peers at future years,
Lit by the torch of Hope.
How far between are Memory's scene
And Hope's unclouded view!
False is each one, and overdone—
Yet both are wondrous true.
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And toward the close, there calmly rose
A sad-eyed veteran hoary,
And with a fair and modest air,
It ain't the funniest thing a man can do—
Existing in a country when it's new;
Nature—who moved in first—a good long while—
Has things already somewhat her own style,
And she don't want her woodland splendors battered,
Her rustic furniture broke up and scattered,
Her paintings, which long years ago were done
By that old splendid artist-king, the Sun,
Torn down and dragged in Civilization's gutter,
Or sold to purchase settlers' bread-and-butter.
She don't want things exposed, from porch to closet—
And so she kind o' nags the man who does it.
She carries in her pockets bags of seeds,
As general agent of the thriftiest weeds;
She sends her blackbirds, in the early morn,
To superintend his fields of planted corn;
She gives him rain past any duck's desire—
Then may be several weeks of quiet fire;
She sails mosquitoes—leeches perched on wings—
To poison him with blood-devouring stings;
She loves her ague-muscle to display,
And shake him up—say every other day;
With thoughtful, conscientious care, she makes
Those travellin' poison-bottles, rattlesnakes;
She finds time, 'mongst her other family cares,
To keep in stock good wild-cats, wolves, and bears;
She spurns his offered hand, with silent gibes,
And compromises with the Indian tribes
(For they who've wrestled with his bloody art
Say Nature always takes an Indian's part).
In short, her toil is every day increased,
To scare him out, and hustle him back East;
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Till fin'lly, it appears to her some day,
That he has made arrangements for to stay;
Then she turns 'round, as sweet as anything,
And takes her new-made friend into the ring,
And changes from a snarl into a purr:
From mother-in-law to mother, as it were.
Well, when I first infested this retreat,
Things to my view looked frightful incomplete;
But Nature seemed quite cheerful, all about me,
A-carrying on her different trades without me.
These words the forest seemed at me to throw:
"Sit down and rest awhile before you go;"
From bees to trees the whole woods seemed to say,
"You're welcome here till you can get away,
But not for time of any large amount;
So don't be hanging round on our account."
But I had come with heart-thrift in my song,
And brought my wife and plunder right along;
I hadn't a round-trip ticket to go back,
And if I had, there wasn't no railroad track;
And drivin' east was what I couldn't endure:
I hadn't started on a circular tour.
My girl-wife was as brave as she was good,
And helped me every blesséd way she could;
She seemed to take to every rough old tree,
As sing'lar as when first she took to me.
She kep' our little log-house neat as wax;
And once I caught her fooling with my axe.
She learned a hundred masculine things to do:
She aimed a shot-gun pretty middlin' true,
Although, in spite of my express desire,
She always shut her eyes before she'd fire.
She hadn't the muscle (though she had the heart)
In out-door work to take an active part;
Though in our firm of Duty & Endeavor,
She wasn't no silent partner whatsoever.
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When I was logging, burning, choppin' wood—
She'd linger 'round, and help me all she could,
And kept me fresh-ambitious all the while,
And lifted tons, just with her voice and smile.
With no desire my glory for to rob,
She used to stan' around and boss the job;
And when first-class success my hands befell,
Would proudly say, "We did that pretty well!"
She was delicious, both to hear and see—
That pretty wife-girl that kep' house for me!
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Sundays, we didn't propose, for lack o' church,
To have our souls left wholly in the lurch;
And so I shaved and dressed up, well's I could,
And did a day's work trying to be good.
My wife was always bandbox-sleek; and when
Our fat old bull's-eye watch said half-past ten
('Twas always varying from the narrow way,
And lied on Sundays, same as any day),
The family Bible from its high perch started
(The one her mother gave her when they parted),
The hymn-book, full of music-balm and fire—
The one she used to sing in in the choir—
One I sang with her from—I've got it yet—
The very first time that we really met;
(I recollect, when first our voices gibed,
A feeling that declines to be described!
And when our eyes met—near the second verse—
A kind of old-acquaintance look in hers,
And something went from mine, which, I declare,
I never even knew before was there—
And when our hands touched—slight as slight could be—
A streak o' sweetened lightnin' thrilled through me!
But that's enough of that; perhaps, even now,
You'll think I'm softer than the law'll allow;
But you'll protect an old man with his age,
For yesterday I turned my eightieth page;
Besides, there'd be less couples falling out
If such things were more freely talked about.)
Well, we would take these books, sit down alone,
And have a two-horse meeting, all our own;
And read our verses, sing our sacred rhymes,
And make it seem a good deal like old times.
But finally across her face there'd glide
A sort of sorry shadow from inside;
And once she dropped her head, like a tired flower,
Upon my arm, and cried a half an hour.
I humored her until she had it out,
And didn't ask her what it was about.
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I knew right well: our reading, song, and prayer
Had brought the old times back, too true and square.
The large attended meetings morn and night;
The spiritual and mental warmth and light;
Her father, in his pew, next to the aisle;
Her mother, with the mother of her smile;
Her brothers' sly, forbidden Sunday glee;
Her sisters, e'en a'most as sweet as she;
Her girl and boy friends, not too warm or cool;
Her little scrub class in the Sunday-school;
The social, and the singings and the ball;
And happy home-cheer waiting for them all—
These marched in close procession through her mind,
And didn't forget to leave their tracks behind.
You married men—there's many in my view—
Don't think your wife can all wrap up in you,
Don't deem, though close her life to yours may grow,
That you are all the folks she wants to know;
Or think your stitches form the only part
Of the crochet-work of a woman's heart.
Though married souls each other's lives may burnish,
Each needs some help the other cannot furnish.
Well, neighborhoods meant counties, in those days;
The roads didn't have accommodating ways;
And maybe weeks would pass before she'd see—
And much less talk with—any one but me.
The Indians sometimes showed their sun-baked faces,
But they didn't teem with conversational graces;
Some ideas from the birds and trees she stole,
But 'twasn't like talking with a human soul;
And finally I thought that I could trace
A half heart-hunger peering from her face.
Then she would drive it back, and shut the door;
Of course that only made me see it more.
'Twas hard to see her give her life to mine,
Making a steady effort not to pine;
'Twas hard to hear that laugh bloom out each minute,
And recognize the seeds of sorrow in it.
Page  24
No misery makes a close observer mourn,
Like hopeless grief with hopeful courage borne;
There's nothing sets the sympathies to paining,
Like a complaining woman, uncomplaining!
It always draws my breath out into sighs,
To see a brave look in a woman's eyes.
Well, she went on, as plucky as could be,
Fighting the foe she thought I did not see,
And using her heart-horticultural powers
To turn that forest to a bed of flowers.
You can not check an unadmitted sigh,
And so I had to soothe her on the sly,
And secretly to help her draw her load;
And soon it came to be an up-hill road.
Hard work bears hard upon the average pulse,
Even with satisfactory results;
But when effects are scarce, the heavy strain
Falls dead and solid on the heart and brain.
And when we're bothered, it will oft occur
We seek blame-timber; and I lit on her;
And looked at her with daily lessening favor,
For what I knew she couldn't help, to save her.
(We often—what our minds should blush with shame for—
Blame people most for what they're least to blame for.)
Then there'd a misty, jealous thought occur,
Because I wasn't Earth and Heaven to her,
And all the planets that about us hovered,
And several more that hadn't been discovered;
And my hard muscle-labor, day by day,
Deprived good-nature of the right of way;
And 'tain't no use—this trying to conceal
From hearts that love us—what our own hearts feel;
They can't escape close observation's mesh—
And thoughts have tongues that are not made of flesh.
And so ere long she caught the half-grown fact:
Commenced observing how I didn't act;
And silently began to grieve and doubt
O'er old attentions now sometimes left out—
Page  25
Some kind caress—some little petting ways—
Commenced a-staying in on rainy days
(I did not see't so clear then, I'll allow;
But I can trace it rather acc'rate now);
And Discord, when he once had called and seen us,
Came round quite often, and edged in between us.
One night, I came from work unusual late,
Too hungry and too tired to feel first-rate—
Her supper struck me wrong (though I'll allow
She hadn't much to strike with, anyhow);
And when I went to milk the cows, and found
They'd wandered from their usual feeding ground,
And maybe'd left a few long miles behind 'em,
Which I must copy, if I meant to find 'em,
Flash-quick the stay-chains of my temper broke,
And in a trice these hot words I had spoke:
"You ought to 've kept the animals in view,
And drove 'em in; you'd nothing else to do.
The heft of all our life on me must fall;
You just lie round, and let me do it all."
That speech—it hadn't been gone a half a minute,
Before I saw the cold black poison in it;
And I'd have given all I had, and more,
To 've only safely got it back in-door.
I'm now what most folks "well-to-do" would call:
I feel to-day as if I'd give it all,
Provided I through fifty years might reach,
And kill and bury that half-minute speech.
Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds;
You can't do that way when you're flying words.
Things that we think may sometimes fall back dead;
But God himself can't kill them when they're said.
She handed back no words, as I could hear;
She didn't frown—she didn't shed a tear;
Half proud, half crushed, she stood and looked me o'er,
Like some one she had never seen before!
Page  26
But such a sudden anguish-lit surprise
I never viewed before in human eyes.
(I've seen it oft enough since, in a dream;
It sometimes wakes me, like a midnight scream!)
That night, while theoretically sleeping,
I half heard and half felt that she was weeping;
And my heart then projected a design
To softly draw her face up close to mine,
And beg of her forgiveness to bestow,
For saying what we both knew wasn't so.
I've got enough of this world's goods to do me,
And make my nephews painfully civil to me:
I'd give it all to know she only knew
How near I came to what was square and true.
But somehow, every single time I'd try,
Pride would appear, and kind o' catch my eye,
And hold me, on the edge of my advance,
With the cold steel of one sly, scornful glance.
Next morning, when, stone-faced, but heavy-hearted,
With dinner pail and sharpened axe I started
Away for my day's work—she watched the door,
And followed me half-way to it or more;
And I was just a-turning round at this,
And asking for my usual good-bye kiss;
But on her lip I saw a proudish curve,
And in her eye a shadow of reserve;
And she had shown—perhaps half unawares—
Some little independent breakfast airs—
And so the usual parting didn't occur,
Although her eyes invited me to her,
Or rather half invited me; for she
Didn't advertise to furnish kisses free:
You always had—that is, I had—to pay
Full market price, and go more'n half the way.
So, with a short "Good-bye," I shut the door,
And left her as I never had before.
Page  27
Now, when a man works with his muscle smartly,
It makes him up into machinery, partly;
And any trouble he may have on hand
Gets deadened like, and easier to stand.
And though the memory of last night's mistake
Bothered me with a dull and heavy ache,
I all the forenoon gave my strength fall rein,
And made the wounded trees bear half the pain.
But when at noon my lunch I came to eat,
Put up by her so delicately neat—
Choicer, somewhat, than yesterday's had been,
And some fresh, sweet-eyed pansies she'd put in—
"Tender and pleasant thoughts," I knew they meant—
It seemed as if her kiss with me she'd sent;
Then I became once more her humble lover,
And said, "To-night I'll ask forgiveness of her."
I went home over-early on that eve,
Having contrived to make myself believe,
By various signs I kind o' knew and guessed,
A thunder-storm was coming from the west.
('Tis strange, when one sly reason fills the heart,
How many honest ones will take its part;
A dozen first-class reasons said 'twas right
That I should strike home early on that night.)
Half out of breath, the cabin door I swung,
With tender heart-words trembling on my tongue;
But all within looked desolate and bare;
My house had lost its soul—she was not there!
A pencilled note was on the table spread,
And these are something like the words it said:
"The cows have strayed away again, I fear;
I watched them pretty close; don't scold me, dear.
And where they are, I think I nearly know:
I heard the bell not very long ago—
I've hunted for them all the afternoon;
I'll try once more—I think I'll find them soon.
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Dear, if a burden I have been to you,
And haven't helped you as I ought to do,
Let old-time memories my forgiveness plead;
I've tried to do my best—I have, indeed.
Darling, piece out with love the strength I lack,
And have kind words for me when I get back."
Scarce did I give this letter sight and tongue—
Some swift-blown rain-drops to the window clung,
And from the clouds a rough, deep growl proceeded;
My thunder-storm had come, now 'twasn't needed.
I rushed out-door; the air was stained with black;
Night had come early, on the storm-cloud's back.
And every thing kept dimming to the sight,
Save when the clouds threw their electric light;
When, for a flash, so clean-cut was the view,
I'd think I saw her—knowing 'twas not true.
Through my small clearing dashed wide sheets of spray,
As if the ocean waves had lost their way;
Scarcely a pause the thunder-battle made,
In the bold clamor of its cannonade.
And she, while I was sheltered, dry and warm,
Was somewhere in the clutches of this storm!
She who, when storm-frights found her at her best,
Had always hid her white face on my breast!
My dog, who'd skirmished 'round me all the day,
Now, crouched and whimpering, in a corner lay;
I dragged him by the collar to the wall—
I pressed his quivering muzzle to a shawl—
"Track her, old boy!" I shouted: and he whined,
Matched eyes with me, as if to read my mind—
Then with a yell went tearing through the wood.
I followed him, as faithful as I could.
No pleasure-trip was that, through flood and flame!
We raced with death;—we hunted noble game.
All night we dragged the woods without avail;
The ground got drenched—we could not keep the trail.
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Three times again my cabin home I found,
Half hoping she might be there, safe and sound;
But each time 'twas an unavailing care:
My house had lost its soul; she was not there!
When, climbing the wet trees, next morning-sun
Laughed at the ruin that the night had done,
Bleeding and drenched—by toil and sorrow bent—
Back to what used to be my home I went.
But, as I neared our little clearing-ground—
Listen!—I heard the cow-bell's tinkling sound;
The cabin door was just a bit ajar;
It gleamed upon my glad eyes like a star!
"Brave heart," I said, "for such a fragile form!
She made them guide her homeward through the storm!"
Such pangs of joy I never felt before:
"You've come!" I shouted, and rushed through the door.
Yes, she had come—and gone again.—She lay
With all her young life crushed and wrenched away—
Lay—the heart-ruins of our home among—
Not far from where I killed her with my tongue.
The rain drops glittered 'mid her hair's long strands,
The forest-thorns had torn her feet and hands,
And 'midst the tears—brave tears—that one could trace
Upon the pale but sweetly resolute face,
I once again the mournful words could read—
" I've tried to do my best—I have, indeed."
And now I'm mostly done; my story's o'er;
Part of it never breathed the air before.
'Tisn't over-usual, it must be allowed,
To volunteer heart-history to a crowd,
And scatter 'mongst them confidential tears,
But you'll protect an old man with his years;
And wheresoe'er this story's voice can reach,
This is the sermon I would have it preach:
Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds;
You can't do that way when you're flying words.
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"Careful with fire," is good advice, we know:
" Careful with words," is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead;
But God himself can't kill them when they're said!
You have my life-grief: do not think a minute
'Twas told to take up time. There's business in it.
It sheds advice; whoe'er will take and live it,
Is welcome to the pain it costs to give it.
Page  31


With added calm, untangling from
The twists of bench repose,
When silence called, serene and bald,
The President arose;
And with bowed head he humbly said,
"To help this meetin' 'long,
My second one, James Madison,
Will now submit a song."
James M. appeared, his infant beard
Hopes for the future shedding,
And sung in strains of anxious pains
'Twas when the leaves of Autumn were by tempest-fingers picked,
Eliphalet Chapin started to become a benedict;
With an ancient two-ox wagon to bring back his new-found goods,
He hawed and gee'd and floundered through some twenty miles o' woods;
With prematrimonial ardor he his hornéd steeds did press,
But Eliphalet's wedding journey didn't bristle with success.
Oh no, woe, woe!
With candor to digress,
Eliphalet's wedding journey didn't tremble with success.
He had not carried five miles his mouth-disputed face,
When his wedding garments parted in some inconvenient place;
He'd have given both his oxen to a wife that now was dead,
For her company two minutes with a needle and a thread.
But he pinned them up, with twinges of occasional distress,
Feeling that his wedding wouldn't be a carnival of dress:
"Haw, Buck!'
Gee, Bright!
Derned pretty mess!"
No; Eliphalet was not strictly a spectacular success.
He had not gone a ten-mile when a wheel demurely broke,
A disunited family of felloe, hub, and spoke;
Page  32
It joined, with flattering prospects, the Society of Wrecks;
And he had to cut a sapling, and insert it 'neath the "ex."
So he plowed the hills and valleys with that Doric wheel and tire,
Feeling that his wedding journey was not all he could desire.
"Gee, Bright!
G'long, Buck!"
He shouted, hoarse with ire:
No; Eliphalet's wedding journey none in candor could admire!
Page  33
He had not gone fifteen miles with extended face forlorn,
When Night lay down upon him hard, and kept him there till morn;
And when the daylight chuckled at the gloom within his mind,
One ox was "Strayed or Stolen," and the other hard to find.
So yoking Buck as usual, he assumed the part of Bright
(Constituting a menagerie diverting to the sight);
With "Haw, Buck!
Gee, Buck!
Sha'n't get there till night!"
No; Eliphalet's wedding journey was not one intense delight.
Now, when he drove his equipage up to his sweetheart's door,
The wedding guests had tired and gone, just half an hour before;
The preacher had from sickness an unprofitable call,
And had sent a voice proclaiming that he couldn't come at all;
The parents had been prejudiced by some one, more or less,
And the sire the bridegroom greeted with a different word from "bless."
"Blank your head,
You blank!" he said;
"We'll break this off, I guess!"
No; Eliphalet's wedding was not an unqualified success.
Now, when the bride saw him arrive, she shook her crimson locks,
And vowed to goodness gracious she would never wed an ox;
And with a vim deserving rather better social luck,
She eloped that day by daylight with a swarthy Indian "buck,"
With the presents in the pockets of her woolen wedding-dress;
And "Things ain't mostly with me," quoth Eliphalet, "I confess."
As things go,
No fair mind 'twould impress,
That Eliphalet Chapin's wedding was an unalloyed success.
Eliphalet Chapin started home—


Once more unbent the President,
With face grown sadly long,
Page  34
And said, "How many more, if any,
Such verses has that song?"
With smile unchanged, the minstrel ranged
Four fingers and a thumb,
And said, "There'll be just ninety-three
More stanzas yet to come."
With look of dread, the father said,
"You need not sing 'em here,
But get your man home, if you can,
Some time this coming year."
Without a frown, James M. sat down,
Stripped of his vocal glory;
And then an old rough patriarch told
A han'some night, with the trees snow-white,
And the time say ten or more,
Saw wife and me, with a well-fed glee,
Drive home from Jackson's store.
There was wife and I, and some things folks buy,
And our horses and our sleigh;
And the moon went along with its lantern strong,
And lit us as light as day.
We'd made roads good, drawin' logs and wood,
For thirty years ago;
And the wear and tear had sustained repair
From Road Commissioner Snow.
As we trotted along, our two-thread song
Wove in with the sleigh-bells' chimes;
Our laugh run free, and it seemed to me
We was havin' first-rate times.
I said "first-rate," but I do not say 't
On a thoroughly thorough plan;
I had won my wife, in legitimate strife,
Away from her first young man.
'Twas a perfect rout, and a fair cut-out,
With nothing sneaky or wrong;
Page  35
But I wondered so as to whether or no
She had brought, her heart along!
A woman half-won is worse than none,
With another man keepin' part;
It's nothin' to gain her body and brain,
If she can't throw in her heart.
And I felt and thought that I sometimes caught
A chillness out o' her mind;
She was too much prone to thinkin' alone,
And rather too coldly kind.
But things seemed right this partic'lar night,
More so than with average folks;
And we filled the air with music to spare,
And complimentary jokes.
Till, as I reckoned, about a second
All happened to be still—
A cry like the yell of hounds from hell
Came over a neighboring hill.
It cut like a blade through the leafless shade;
It chilled us stiff with dread;
We looked loud cries in each other's eyes—
And— "Wolves!" was all we said.
The wolf! grim scamp and forest-tramp—
Why made, I never could see;
Beneath brute level—half dog, half devil—
The Indian-animal, he!
And this was a year with a winter more drear
Than any we'd ever known;
It was '43; and the wolves you see,
Had a famine of their own.
That season, at least, of man and beast
They captured many a one;
And we knew, by the bite of their voice that night,
That they hadn't come out for fun.
My horses felt need of all their speed,
And every muscle strained;
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But, with all they could do, I felt and knew
That the hungry devils gained.
'Twas but two miles more to our own house door,
Where shelter we would find,
When I saw the pack close on to our track,
Not a hundred yards behind.
Then I silent prayed: " O God! for aid—
Just a trifle—I request!
Just give us, You know, an even show,
And I'll undertake the rest."
Then I says to my wife, "Now drive for life!
They're a-comin' over-nigh!
And I will stand, gun and axe in hand,
And be the first to die."
As the ribbons she took, she gave me a look
Sweet memory makes long-lived:
I thought, "I'll allow she loves me now;
The rest of her heart has arrived."
I felt I could fight the whole o' the night,
And never flinch or tire!
In danger, mind you, a woman behind you
Can turn your blood to fire.
When they reached the right spot, I left 'em a shot,
But it wasn't a steady aim—
'Twasn't really mine—and they tipped me a whine,
And came on all the same.
Their leader sped a little ahead,
Like a gray knife from its sheath;
With a resolute eye, and a hungry cry,
And an excellent set of teeth.
A moment I gazed—my axe I raised—
It hissed above my head—
Crunching low and dull, it split his skull,
And the villain fell back dead!
It checked them there, and a minute to spare
We had, and a second besides:
With rites unsaid they buried their dead
In the graves of their own lank hides.
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They made for him a funeral grim—
Himself the unbaked meat;
And when they were through with their barbecue,
They started for more to eat!
With voices aflame, once more they came;
But faster still we sped,
And we and our traps dashed home perhaps
A half a minute ahead.
My wife I bore through the open door,
Then turned to the hearth clean swept,
Where a log-fire glowed in its brick abode—
By my mother faithfully kept;
From its depths raising two fagots blazing,
I leaped like lightning back;
I dashed the brands, with my blistering hands,
In the teeth of the howling pack.
"Come on!" I said, "with your fierce lips red,
Flecked white with poison foam!
Waltz to me now, and just notice how
A man fights for his home!"
They shrunk with fright from the feel and sight
O' this sudden volley of flame;
With a yell of dread, they sneaked and fled,
As fast as ever they came.
As I turned around, my wife I found
Not the eighth of an inch away:
She looked so true and tender, I knew,
That her heart had come—to stay.
She nestled more nigh, with love-lit eye,
And passionate-quivering lip;
And I saw that the lout that I cut out
Had probably lost his grip.
Doubt moved away, for a permanent stay,
And never was heard of more!
My soul must own that it had not known
The soul of my wife before.
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As I staunched the steam on my foaming team,
These thoughts hitched to my mind:
Below or above some woman's love,
How little in life we find!
A man'll go far to plant a star
Where fame's wide sky is thrown,
But a longer way, for some woman to say,
"I love you for my own."
And oft as I've worked, this thought has lurked
'Round me, with substantial aid:
Of the best and worst men have done since first
This twofold world was made:
Of the farms they've cleared—of the buildin's reared—
The city splendors wrought—
Of the battle-field, where, loth to yield,
The right 'gainst the right has fought;
Of the measured strains of the lightning-trains,
The clack of the quick-spoke wire—
Of the factory's clash and the forge's flash,
An' the furnace's plumes of fire;
Be 't great or small—nine-tenths of all
Of every trade and art,
Be 't right or wrong—is merely a song
To win some woman's heart.


With haste well meant, the President
Laboriously arose,
And said, "'Tis near the time, I fear,
This meetin' ought to close.
But ere we grieve this spot to leave,
To help the meetin' 'long,
My youngest one, T. Jefferson,
Will contribute a song."
Like sheep that fly, when lingers nigh
Some foe their leader fears;
Like boys at play, when far away
Parental wrath appears;
Page  41
Like any thing that fright can bring
Into the average throng,
The crowd withdrew from casual view,
To dodge the threatened song.
With better pluck than vocal luck,
And face of hardy cheer,
Young Thomas J. closed out the day
When the Spring-time touch is lightest,
When the Summer-eyes are brightest,
Or the Autumn sings most drear;
When the Winter's hair is whitest,
Sleep, old pioneer!
Safe beneath the sheltering soil,
Late enough you crept;
You were weary of the toil
Long before you slept.
Well you paid for every blessing,
Bought with grief each day of cheer:
Nature's arms around you pressing,
Nature's lips your brow caressing,
Sleep, old pioneer!
When the hill of toil was steepest,
When the forest-frown was deepest,
Poor, but young, you hastened here;
Came where solid hope was cheapest—
Came—a pioneer.
Made the western jungles view
Civilization's charms;
Snatched a home for yours and you,
From the lean tree-arms.
Toil had never cause to doubt you—
Progress' path you helped to clear;
But To-day forgets about you,
And the world rides on without you—
Sleep, old pioneer!
Page  42
Careless crowds go daily past you,
Where their future fate has cast you,
Leaving not a sigh or tear;
And your wonder-works outlast you—
Brave old pioneer!
Little care the selfish throng
Where your heart is hid,
Though they thrive upon the strong,
Resolute work it did.
But our memory-eyes have found you,
And we hold you grandly dear:
With no work-day woes to wound you—
With the peace of GOD around you—
Sleep, old pioneer!
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